My Bay Area Story—Becoming a Technical Artist

Travis Chair 1979

During the second half of the 1970’s, I lived in and around Oakland, CA and worked for high-end office furniture manufacturer Modern Mode, or MMI, as in “2001”. I started there just as the company had a major growth spurt when they opened a chair facility a few blocks down the street from their main case goods factory. During those years, I created and managed the design engineering department, and was responsible for designing all custom product orders from architect and interior designer special requests. I spent my days designing, talking to design customers and following their products through the construction phases in the factory. And after hours, I built my own designs in my home shop from wood scraps I took from the dumpsters behind the factory.

In my final year with the company in 1979, I designed a modular seating system named Travis (single chair shown here)  and was responsible for designing their first open office furniture/wall panel system, still a new concept at the time. In order to help me with the electrical components of the panel system I was designing, I requested the services of an outside industrial engineer. That engineer was Ron Skaff, who co-founded Linea Forma with me a year later.

In that same time frame, MMI sent me to see a corporate psychologist and take a battery of tests and interviews to determine what management position I was best suited for. Quite a progressive move at the time. The tests included the Strong-Campbell Interest Test and a number of others I no longer remember the names of. It was a full day of testing and a full day of evaluation and consultation. The psychologist told me that the results baffled him, because I scored a perfect 50%-50% on left and right hemisphere strengths. He said he had never tested any creative person and gotten those results. It tended to validate what I had been noticing myself through the years. I was never the type of artist who could pick up a pencil and draw a recognizable face with a few strokes in a few minutes. But I sure could draw furniture or a car or any other object. I’ve always been an artist, but my talents led me to the more technical type of art, so … lots of rulers, triangles, t-squares, technical pens, and ultimately … the computer.

Which brings us to the present, and the niche I have discovered myself in. Over the years, I’ve found that my talents dovetail nicely with those fine art designers who have a ton of sketching and traditional art talents, but never tried to learn or master 3D modeling and animation. At this stage of my career, I pose no threat to their client relationships, but offer a group of services they can’t produce in-house. And I’m happy to just deal with the technical parts of their projects that I have expertise in: technical illustration, 3D models, animation and motion graphics.

So, to any other designers out there who occasionally need a set of talents different from their own, let me offer you my services. I don’t need hand holding, I’m extremely self-motivated, and my ego won’t get in your way. I just want to make things. Technical things. You do what you do best and I’ll help explain the technical parts of your story. And make life easier for you. Win win.

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Bill Giobbi (bgob1) is founder and owner of Linea Forma Design, a 38 year old design firm specializing in creating graphic content for print, web and video. He is a graphic designer, industrial designer, model maker, technical illustrator and a digital 3D content creator/animator, with a love of all things design.
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